Youth workers 'underwhelmed' with Government's crime crackdown, says it doesn't fix long-term issues

The Government's crime crackdown has left youth workers "underwhelmed", saying it won't address the long-term issues driving offending.

ZEAL CEO Jesse Boyce and youth worker Aaron Hendry both believe the Government's announcement was disappointing and want to see more of a focus on community groups that can tackle the core issues at the heart of offending.

The Government on Monday announced several changes to crackdown on youth and gang crime, with the measures including a new offence for anyone posting crimes on social media.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins also announced adults rewarding or encouraging children to commit crimes would be a new aggravating factor in sentencing.

But Boyce and Hendry weren't impressed by the Government's announcement saying it might fix problems now but in the long-term the issues will still remain.

Hendry told AM on Tuesday the policy doesn't address "why" youth people are offending. He told fill-in co-host Lloyd Burr he doubts New Zealand will see a real difference or create safer and healthier communities with this policy.

"When we see youth crime, when we see young people causing harm in the community, often they're coming from communities where they've been marginalised," he said.

"They're experiencing poverty, abuse, homelessness, housing insecurity, huge massive things and what we didn't see in those policies was really something that was going to meet the needs of those young people, respond to that adequately and then ensure we were able to give them the support they need to thrive. When we do that, we create safer communities."

Hendry believes until the core of the issue is addressed, New Zealand will continue to see this cycle of violence and people will continue to get hurt.

He also believed more focus needs to go on local community groups, which desperately need more funding and truly understand the real issues.

"Our local communities know where the answers are. Often we know what's going on in our communities. We know our young people but we lack the resources to actually reach them," he explained.

"If we had targeted funding into local communities to respond to community needs we could see a real impact. So we need to start shifting the way we think about this problem."

ZEAL CEO Jesse Boyce.
ZEAL CEO Jesse Boyce. Photo credit: AM

Boyce, who appeared alongside Hendry on AM, had a similar view saying the Government needs to focus on the root cause of the issues.

Boyce is the CEO of ZEAL, which is a youth support centre where young people can learn skills and overcome tough beginnings.
He told AM he is underwhelmed by the Prime Minister's announcement.

"I think the policy changes that are proposed are short-term fixes. They could solve the immediate impacts and change youth offending on a short basis, but they don't address some of the longer-term challenges young people are facing, the why behind young people who are engaging in this activity," Boyce said.

Hendry believes too much focus goes onto police when talking about crime when instead, the Government should be looking at youth workers.

He pointed to a report by Professor Ian Lambie titled: 'How we fail children who offend and what to do about it: 'A breakdown across the whole system'.

Youth worker Aaron Hendry.
Youth worker Aaron Hendry. Photo credit: AM

He said the report showed kids younger than five years of age can be identified who are most likely to offend as a child.

"Our communities know these families are struggling, we lack the funding, the resources to adequately support them, we're waiting until they fall off the cliff and then we're punishing them," he said.

"We're putting all this money into police, all this money into building prisons but we're not actually responding to the core needs that is the heart of this offending.

"If we actually care about our communities, if we want safer communities, if we want to ensure that everyone is safe and we're able to thrive, we need to start responding to the needs that are deep within our community."

Watch the full interview with Jesse Boyce and Aaron Hendry in the video above.